The Cold Storm Approaches
Photo Source: Deborah Stoner
Deborah Stoner, Foreign Policy Contributor
OPINION -- Even following over twenty-five years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia and the United States still can’t be on amiable terms. Some may have heard of the sanctions passed by the House, and then the Senate, and finally signed into law by President Trump. The Russian Federation responded by seizing two US embassy properties in Russia, and demanding the reduction by 745 of yet another embassy. However, just this past week the State Department decided to retaliate and shuttered three Russian facilities within the US: the Russian consulate in San Francisco as well as two annexes in Washington D.C. and New York. Thus, the Cold Storm approaches.
Every foreign policy analyst has to question the wisdom in this decision. The first question is who started this escalation. Many people can agree that Russia meddled in the election first. On one hand, Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the Russian embassy in response to Russian election interference. In considering that, sanctions may go overboard in punishing the Russians. Additionally, a fellow contributor Jacob Grandstaff argued a few weeks ago that Russian sanctions were not the right response to the situation. In his article, he made the point that the timing seemed self-serving for the United States. Beyond that, he argued that the bill was a power grab by the legislative branches, reducing the tools that the executive branch could use during negotiations. In my opinion, the sanctions and step by step escalation are exactly what the United States needs right now.
The United States should retaliate for the Russian interference in our elections. Our freedom to elect our own representatives is critical to our citizens’ rights. However, we saw that Obama had become more lenient towards Russia, especially when an open mic caught him promising to compromise after his reelection. It’s entirely possible that the United States cannot retaliate against Russia right now, because their elections are in 2018, too far for a clear connection to be made. However, sanctions are a definite way for Russian citizens to remember the result of their overreaching president. Putin enters the 2018 elections having to answer for the current state of their economy, and his involvement in the American election. Additionally, putting the sanctions in the hands of the Congress forces Putin to negotiate with the larger American population, rather than making a private deal with President Trump.
Now that the White House cannot remove sanctions without Congressional approval, the government is protected in two ways. One, it allows the legislative branch to make more decisions concerning sanctions in general. The legislative branch was always designed to be more powerful than the other two branches, with the most power given to the people. Now, our representatives can jointly make decisions with other representatives on the safety of our entire nation. The other reason is that the people can no longer blame Trump for being too soft on Russia. Despite what either side says about Trump and Russia, not one will be able to say he alone lifted Russian sanctions because of a personal or political interest.
The embassy reduction by the United States was an ingenious move, reminding Russia that two can play this game. In all, the United States kicked out 35 embassy members under Obama, and closed an embassy and two annexes under Trump. Russia, on the other hand, seized two US properties and reduced the number of people in the US embassy, something that the State Department may have already been trying to accomplish. Only last week, Tillerson removed 23 positions from the State Department in his efforts create more efficiency. So, perhaps having fewer officials on foreign soil is a step in the right direction. After all, 455 members are still left.
The sanctions are also one of the first actual retaliations for election interference. There’s always been a threat, but the diplomatic and monetary retaliations by the United States make them the leader in responding to outside threats. Both in foreign policy and strength in the international community, this response further elevates America’s global standing, and has already led the French to promise retaliation if Russia interfered in their elections.
So while the sanctions may have been bad timing, handing over power on the part of the executive branch, and angering the Russians, it did just a little more good than it hurt. In a few years, Russia will have no choice but to make peace with the United States, since we will be in the favor of the international community and strength. Let the Cold Storm approach, because the United States will overcome it.
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